TEDx Takes Fargo!

Written by: Brady Drake

“Going to the edge gives you experiences. Experiences give you ideas. Ideas change the world.” – TEDxFargo Team

TEDxFargo, licensed by TED-a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks-is an independently organized event bringing together a diverse group of speakers to share their ideas and experiences with the local community.

Each year, TEDxFargo has a special event theme, with 2023’s being ‘EDGE.

In a series of speakers, with topics ranging all over the board, this year’s TEDx event will explore the question, “Why do some people thrive on the edge while it scares others?” Listeners will be pushed to think about new perspectives and what makes up those boundaries in the first place. Together, the event will push everyone to take a look into their own selves, embrace those differing from them, and meet to share and learn from the entire experience.

Let’s meet our TEDxFargo EDGE speakers!

What is it?

TEDxFargo events are organized by local volunteers who follow the guidelines set by TED to ensure the quality of each speaker’s talk. It has the potential to inspire and educate the audience. They cover a wide range of topics, like science, technology, art, design, business, education, and entertainment. Each TEDx event is unique, reflecting the interests, culture, and identity of the local community in which it is held.

Alissa Adams

Chief Operating Officer, West Acres Development, LLP

Alissa’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Art, Community, Mall”

Alissa Adams is the Chief Operating Officer at West Acres Development in Fargo, ND. Her contribution has been vital in maintaining the organization’s ongoing success and her dedication to creativity has been the driving force behind all of her actions. She fuses her work with art, imagination, and stunning aesthetics to construct interactive and inspiring environments to foster community.

Apart from her position at West Acres, Alissa is also the Chief Strategy Officer at the Center for Plastic Surgery where she works with her husband, Nick. She finds joy in her creative pursuits such as cooking, floral arrangement, outdoor activities yoga, playing with her two daughters, and engaging with the community.

Alissa’s ideas are influenced by her time spent living outside her home state and her passion for exploring new places. She is committed to introducing original and inventive concepts to her community while embracing its distinct and lively creative ambiance. Alissa endeavors to make a constructive contribution to the world and inspire others to follow suit, both through her work and personal endeavors.


Amber Buker

Founder & CEO, Totem

Amber’s Ted Talk in 3 Ideas: “Indigenous representation, decolonizing wealth, the modern economy”

Being the Founder and CEO of Totem, Amber Buker is the driving force behind this sole digital platform constructed by and for Indigenous people. With a background in law, she has counseled bank executives on technology in recent years. Amber has conducted hundreds of interviews with leaders in banking, fintech, and government, and frequently shares her insights with the public through speaking engagements, writing, and podcasting. She achieved a significant milestone in 2022, becoming the second Indigenous woman in the United States to secure a multi-million dollar venture funding round.


Brian Murray

CEO, Ryan Companies US, Inc

Brian’s Ted Talk in 4 Words: “End Mental Health Stigma”

Ryan Companies US, Inc., a national commercial estate services company, offers expertise in designing, developing, constructing, financing, and managing commercial real estate properties. Before serving as the Chief Executive Officer, Brian Murray held financial roles at UnitedHealth Group and Arthur Andersen & Co.

Brian has dedicated himself to many different roles to serve his communities. He served as the first board chair for Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis-a school providing college preparatory education for economically disadvantaged youth, mostly black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), who also gain professional work experience during their time there. He is a current board member of the nonprofit PrairieCare Fund, which provides grants for mental health awareness in schools, and a current board member of the 150-year-old Lakewood Cemetery that sits on 250 acres in the heart of Minneapolis. In his life, Brian has personally faced depression and unfortunately has friends and extended family members who have tried or been successful in ending their struggle with mental illness through suicide. In facing his personal experiences, he is an advocate for ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness, with a focus on that stigma in men. He openly shares his story with the goal of giving hope to others. He aims to create more awareness of the signs of depression and anxiety in corporations. Brian shares and backs the idea that mental illness is real, common, and treatable. With his wife Shelly, Brian lives in Minneapolis and has three adult children. He is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Brian Murray

Christie Hefner

Directors & Strategic Advisor

Christie’s Ted Talk in 4 Words: “1st Amendment & Civility”

Christie Hefner has served as a professional at executive levels for more than 30 years. She was a founding member of The Chicago Network, The Committee of 200, and the Chicago Chapter of Women Corporate Directors, and she was the first woman elected into the Chicago Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Christie now serves as the Chairman of the Board of Hatchbeauty Brands, the first company to offer both beauty and wellness incubation.

Christie spent 20 years as Chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises and is largely credited with developing and leading the repositioning of the company from a national magazine business to a global multimedia and lifestyle company, and more.


Gary Vernon

Sr. Program Officer Walton Personal Philanthropy Group

Gary’s Ted Talk in 4 Words: “Transform Your Community (with trails)”

As Senior Program Officer for the Walton Family Foundation, Gary Vernon is able to support Steuart and Tom Walton’s effort to create a world-class destination for mountain biking and all types of cycling in Arkansas. Having almost 50 years on his wheels, Gary is devoted to his passions of mountain biking and off-road motorcycling. In addition, he is an expert in competition motorcycle trials, having established the All Kids Ride program in over 30 schools in the state of Arkansas so far.

Gary Vernon II

Hannah Stelter

Founder of Designed by Hannah & Scribble Lady

Hannah’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Unblocking self-identity”

Artist and entrepreneur, Hannah Stelter, began her journey on social media in 2020. After growing a large following around her content, she delved further into what would become her business. Her art’s focus is on body positivity which is shown through portraits, with the goal for people to embrace their own self and cause celebration in people’s uniqueness. In 2022, Hannah started an art supply company, with the mission of making art more approachable for beginners, furthering her philosophy of embracing imperfection.

Hannah Stelter/Designed By Hannah

Scribble lady

Jake Joraanstad

CEO & Co-Founder, Bushel

Jake’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Agriculture’s Digital Infrastructure”

Bushel is an independently owned and operated software company headquartered in Fargo, ND, co-founded by lake Joraanstad and launched in 2017. Being very involved in the local entrepreneurial world, Jake enjoys helping with local startup events. Bushels focus is to foster innovative agriculture software products and solutions. Since its inception, the company’s software has powered 2,200+ grain facilities and reached over 100,000 farmers across the US and Canada, providing business information for their producers in real-time.


Jon Absey

Owner, Sego Promos

Jon’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Charity, Leadership, Success”

Owner of Sego Promos, as well as the original Utah Jazz Bear, Job Absey has taken his role in the sports industry and created something all of his own. Jon has a lengthy list of accomplishments thus far, including performing at over 900 NBA games, donating 16,000-plus hours of assistance to more than 300 community organizations, and raising more than one million dollars for charity in the process. He’s received 40 community and national awards, including 8 mascot leadership awards, keys to 2 cities, honors by 3 individual governors with his very own “Day in Utah,” and named Mascot of the Year in the NBA 5 times and Best Mascot out of all sports nationwide twice. Most recently, he received an award for the best video by a mascot out of all sports nationwide. Jon is an inductee of the YMCA Hall of Fame, the Utah Summer Games Hall of Fame, and the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006. Jon emphasizes credit for his career and his character to his community and family.


Michelle Berg

CEO, Electronbio

Michelle’s Ted Talk in 4 ideas: “Rare disease, public health, empathy, resposibility”

With over 20 years of experience as well as leadership roles in the biotechnology world, Michelle Berg brings a filled resume and immense knowledge to her positions. Before serving in her most recent role as the President, GMP Nucleic Acids for Aldevron, Michelle was the VP of Patient Affairs and Community Engagement for Abeona Therapeutics-a company developing novel gene and cell therapy approaches for the treatment of people affected by rare diseases like Epidermolysis Bullosa, Sanfilippo syndrome, and Batten disease. Before her time with Abeona Therapeutics, Michelle worked in various roles at Aldeveron for 16 years, continuing to build her responsibility and being a part of a team to guide the company in growth and expansion.

Michelle Berg

Michelle Curran

Founder, Upside Down Dreams Fighter Pilot

Michelle’s Ted Talk in 2 Words: “Culture of Trust”

In her 13 years in the United States Air Force, Michelle Curran was a Fighter Pilot, flying as the only female pilot for the Air Force Thunderbirds and performing for millions across the country and internationally from 2019-2021. Early on, Michelle completed missions around the world as a proven combat fighter. She has collected honors and highlights in her years like being named Distinguished Alumna of the Year by the University of St. Thomas in 2021 as well as being featured on The Kelly Clarkson Show and CBS Evening News.

Looking at her drive to push limits, inspire others, and change lives, she created her company, Upside Down Dreams. Through this, she empowers you to overcome, face the fear of failure, and transcend whatever goal you are passionate about.

Michelle “MACE” Curran

Nick Hall

Author, Ministry Leader

The author of the book “Reset,” Nick Hall serves in multiple roles that reflect passions and drive. He is the president of Pulse, an Evangelistic ministry, and has shared his faith at many events to over five million people. He is a regular speaker at many different faith-based gatherings, student conferences, training events, and festivals around the world. He has been highlighted across multiple media outlets like Huffington Post, USA Today, Fox News, US News & World Report, Washington Post, Christianity Today, Moody Radio, Christian Broadcasting Network, Trinity Broadcast Network, and The Christian Post. His other roles include President and CEO of The Table Coalition and he is a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his wife, who has three children with. Nick graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from NDSU and a master’s in Leadership and Christian Thought from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN.


Penelope Hartogensis

Student, Harvard University

Penelope’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Mental Health, Teens, Multi-Racial”

Penelope graduated high school in June 2020 and was accepted early to Harvard University. Currently, she is taking a gap year to work on mental health and prepare for college.

Penelope Hartogensis

Regina Louise

Founder, Possibility HQRS

Regina’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Devil’s backbone, Exhale.”

Possibility HQRS is a boutique coaching agency founded by Regina Louise. Regina has a plentiful amount of work to her name, including her newest work, ‘Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Self-Love” (New World Library, June 2021) being the first-ever personal growth offering. Her works have won awards including, her memoirs “Somebody’s Someone” and “I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story,” which were nominated for numerous awards including a 2020 NAACP Image Award for Best Director, and a Christopher Award, which it won for “upholding the highest essence of triumph of the human spirit,” for a television film. Regina’s story has been highlighted and featured on various media sources like Good Morning America, NPR’s All Things Considered, Lee Harris Podcast, San Francisco Chronicle, Essence Magazine, CNN, HLN, and more. Regina graduated with a Master of Fine Arts, summa cum laude from the University of California. She lives in the San Francisco bay area, where she is a Hoffman Process teacher, a workshop facilitator, and a motivational speaker.

Regina Louise

Dr. Rupak Gandhi


Dr. Gandhi’s Ted Ta;l in 3 Words: “Define Your Standard”

Dr. Rupak Gandhi has an impressive education resume, starting his journey in undergraduate studies in political science at Texas A&M University, pursuing and graduating with a master’s degree in special education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ, and holds his doctorate in educational leadership from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. He ventured into his career in the education field with a role through Teach For America, as a special education resource teacher. He then moved on to the role of high school assistant principal, then an elementary principal for a campus of 750 students, and finally, the principal of a comprehensive 6A high school serving nearly 3,000 students.

Moving up again, he took on the role of Research, Data, and Accountability Officer (Assistant Superintendent) for Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, CO. In this position, Dr, Gandhi gave direction in leadership and strategy for accountability planning, implementation of performance measurements, and reported practices for the District. Native of California, Dr. Gandhi finally made his way to the FM area when the Board of Education of the City of Fargo hired him as the Superintendent of Schools in March 2018, starting in July of that year.

Megan Langley

Executive Director, Strengthen ND

Megan’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Redefining Rural ROI”

Megan Langley has a plethora of roles and experiences to sum up her career thus far, currently, she is the Founder and Executive Director of Strengthen ND, a multi-faceted organization working to uplift nonprofits and rural communities across the state in order to ensure a high quality of life and resources for vulnerable populations. Megan’s past accomplishments include being named a 2014 Bush Foundation Fellow, a 2020 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy, and an alumnus of the Harvard-Kennedy School of Government’s Leadership in the 21st Century Program and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana State University. Other roles Megan holds are various state and national positions in the rural development area, including positions on the North Dakota Council on the Arts Board of Directors, North Dakota Economic Development Foundation Board of Directors, North Dakota Rural Development Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts’ Steering Committee, which provides guidance to the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD).

Megan Langley

And Mainstage Performances!

In between speeches get ready to be wowed with performances by Deshaun James, a super-talented multi-genre artist based out of Greenville, SC, and the All Star Afro Dance Team, a youth dance group that are the first ever first place winners of Fargo Got Talent.

Samantha Pattinson

CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) Global

As the CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) Global-a company known for Oscar designs that are sustainable- Samata Pattinson is passionate and committed to changing the scope, process, and future of all her areas of work for the better. She is the author of Fashion Designer’s Resource Book: Fashioning Your Life, and a writer for many publications like The Guardian, VOGUE, and Huffington Post.

Her work has been featured in Billboard, Reuters, Business Insider, Business Of Fashion, Grazia Middle East, Instyle, Grazia, Vogue Italia, Yahoo Finance, Westwood Westwood, VOGUE (USA & UK), E! Entertainment, Hello Giggles, The Huffington Post, Women’s Wear Daily, ELLE, InStyle, Essence, Red Magazine, Refinery 29, and more.

In her role as CEO of RCGD Global, Samata’s efforts have been supporting and moving the concept of sustainability to the world of apparel and has had the opportunity to work with brands like Louis Vuitton, Armani, and Vivienne Westwood and indie designers such as Ghanaian-born Michael Badger, to collaborate all over the world, including places like Ghana and Nigeria, and further to Italy and New Zealand. Samata has been a part of past United Nations Climate Change Conferences, being part of the SHE Changes Climate initiative in the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), and delivering a keynote on Designing for Sustainability at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27).

A recent work of Samata’s was her project of developing and delivering the Billie Eilish Climate and Fashion focus at the artist’s London Overheated festival, and in 2023, Samata wrote the sustainable style guide for the 95th Annual Academy Awards Oscars event, which will be followed for future Oscar ceremonies.

Samata Pattinson FRSA

Sam Wai

Wine Enthusiast

Sam’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Wine, Vineyards, and Grapes”

A local to the FM area since the early 70s, Sam Wai held the role of financial executive up until he retired seven years ago. For the last 35 years, he has served as a wine educator and has a wine cellar holding about 2,500 bottles. He often leads guests through Greece for history tours about wine and food.

Samuel Wai

William Greenfield

Executive Producer (Euphoria)

William’s Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Access, Attain, Maintain”

With a dream of becoming a filmmaker, Will Greenfield was born and raised in a small town outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and stayed on course to eventually live out his career. Managing the difficulties of growing up in a small town, Will became the first in his family to receive a college education.

In his first role in the industry post-graduation, Will worked as a production assistant, which took him to New York, Louisiana, and Georgia. His current position as executive producer was well-deserved and has landed opportunities in the last 7 years to work on 16 feature film credits. Some of those were directed by Frank Darabont, Jon Favreau, Quentin Tarantino, Jeff Nichols, Spike Lee, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lena Dunham, and Sam Levinson.

One notable work Will has recently completed was the second season of HBO’s Emmy-nominated series, Euphoria. Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi, Sydney Sweeney, Eric Dane and Storm Reid each star in this series created by Sam Levinson. Now, Will is in pre and post-production on upcoming independent feature films. He is passionate about mentoring and helping guide the next generation of filmmakers. Greenfield resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his beautiful wife and daughter.

Thomas Dambo

Artist & Founder, Thomas Dambo Art APS

Thomas’ Ted Talk in 3 Words: “Recycling, Trash, Trolls”

What began as what sounds like a story in a book, is the truth behind how Thomas Dambo gained his worldwide recognition as the world’s leading recycling artist. That story involved Thomas roaming the city of Copenhagen, which he called home, on a cargo bike. He would explore and dumpster dive for materials for his first small art installations. Now, Thomas has a team of over 20 employees. Still honoring his philosophy of sustainably and using recycled materials, he has created over 100 sculptures in 17 countries.


More on TEDx Fargo!

TEDxFa x = independently organized TED event

More on TEDx Fargo!

TEDX first hit the Red River Valley just over 10 years ago. Some of the first speakers to visit and share their TED Talks included names like Irene Fernando (at the time the co-founder and co-executive director for Students Today Leaders Forever, STLF), Todd Bol (visionary of Little Free Libraries), Rich Karlgaard (ND native and Editor at Large/Global Futurist of Forbes), and many more. The local stage has held international recognition, as well as names some might recognize like Kevin Wallevand, Doug Burgum (pre-Governor status!), and more.

This all-day event, held in downtown Fargo, exhibits the best of the best in technology, research, development, and innovation, among many other things that make up great discussions supporting the idea of pushing the FM community forward, be it of growth in ideas, impactful events, empowered communities, or anything else.

Since TED Talks are accessible online after events, you have the ability to access and watch past TEDxFargo speakers to see what the community was experiencing, 3, 5, and even 10 years ago. And not just you, anyone can see what’s being said in Fargo, North Dakota. In fact, a lot of people are listening.

On the TEDx Talks YouTube page the TEDxFargo speakers have reached millions of views, let’s see the numbers.

Ideas Worth Spreading

Governor Doug Burgum (right), pictured shaking hands with Emerging Prairie Founder Greg Tehven, has been instrumental in the evolution of TEDxFargo.

Did You Know?
You can experience every TED Talk that has graced the FM streets, or really, any TED Talk ever that’s the beauty of them. TED Talks are recorded and uploaded to YouTube to provide access to these speakers’ thoughts. This way, no matter where you are, who you are, or whatever else, you have access to hundreds of different ideas, conversations, and questions through TEDX.

The Art of Letting Go The Minimalists | TEDxFargo (2016)

3.3 Million Views

“How might your life be better with less? Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known to their 4 million readers as ‘The Minimalists, are the executive producers of MINIMALISM, the #1 indie documentary of 2016. They spoke at TEDxFargo about the benefits of letting go and living a meaningful life with less. For more info about The Minimalists visit theminimalists.com

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known to their four million readers as ‘The Minimalists, have written four books, including the bestselling memoir, Everything That Remains. They write about living a meaningful life with less stuff at TheMinimalists.com. Their new film, Minimalism, is currently the #1 documentary of 2016!” – TEDx Talks YouTube

Your Gut Microbiome: The Most Important Organ You’ve Never Heard of | Erika Ebbel Angle | TEDxFargo (2019)

1.7 Million Views

“…Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle discusses why the gut microbiome is the most important organ you’ve probably never heard of. The gut is the second brain, and gut health affects your overall health. This means that you are what you eat, but you are also the metabolites that live in your gut and produce the substances you need for emotional balance, energy level, and disease prevention. Poor lifestyle choices cause gut imbalances, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, and even anxiety and depression.

Angle talks about three critical molecules and how they work in the body to affect your overall wellness. She also shares some tips about what you can do to maintain a healthy gut microbiome through diet and lifestyle choices.

Entrepreneur and biochemist Erika Ebbel Angle, Ph.D., has dedicated her life to studying the gut. Dr. Angle is the CEO and co-founder of Ixcela, the Internal FitnessTM company. Ixcela evaluates the gut microbiome using a blood sample and then offers personalized recommendations to restore gut health. Angle shares her lifelong love of science in many ways, including through her nonprofit, Science from Scientists, which brings scientists into classrooms to promote STEM careers and science education. A graduate of MIT and Boston University School of Medicine, Dr. Angle is also a former Miss Massachusetts who used her platform to encourage students to pursue STEM careers and scientific discovery.

Erika Ebbel Angle, Ph.D., is the CEO and Co-founder of Ixcela, a biotechnology company aimed at developing tests and interventions to improve gut microbiome efficacy and health. She is also the Executive Director and Founder of Science from Scientists, an award-winning National nonprofit focused on improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) attitudes and aptitudes for children aged 9-13. Outside of work, Erika enjoys scuba diving, skiing, and classical piano… – TEDx Talks Youtube

The Surprising Truth About Rejection | Cam Adair | TEDxFargo (2014)

1.5 Million Views

… Cam Adair tells a story of our society’s collective nightmare: rejection. It’s a story we’ve all lived through before but this one ends with a plot twist. He speaks to the universal experience and paralyzing fear of rejection while exposing own inner turmoil he trudged through as a teenager. After years of intense bullying starting at age 13 where the fun game was ‘Who can stuff Cam into a trashcan?’ he dropped out of high school. Twice. Next, he found himself recoiling from the world, playing video games up to 16 hours a day.

But something surprising happened that changed the way he saw his rejection forever. This turning point allowed him to shift gears to become a successful entrepreneur. Now as a public speaker, he travels around the country sharing his message about overcoming the heartbreaking pain of rejection and using it as fuel for growth, connection and purpose. Learn more about Cam at camerondare.com. Connect with him on Twitter, @camerondare.

Cam’s mission is to help others live life with intention. Feeling trapped in a career he wasn’t passionate about at the age of 20, Cam founded Kingpin Social, a company with a mission to empower young men to live life on their own terms by understanding the social side of their lives. Cam believes in the power of creating your own path, contributing to your community, and the magic of youth. Currently, you can find Cam traveling full-time speaking around the US & Canada on topics of Building Stronger Relationships, Bullying and Gaming Addiction.” – TEDx Talks YouTube

Make Sure To Mark Your Calendars For July 20!

Mark Your Calendars

Fargo Civic Center
207 4th St N #4817,
Fargo, ND 58102

Learn more at TEDxfargo.com

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.